- The Bronze Age was the first time humans started to do things with metal.
- Tools and weapons made of bronze are better than tools or weapons made of stone.
- Ancient Sumerians in the Middle East might have been the first people to enter the Bronze Age.
- Many new things were invented during this age, including writing systems and even wheels!
The Bronze Age was the third phase of history among ancient people in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. It came after the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods.
The age began at various times in different locations. In Greece and China, for example, the Bronze Age started before 3000 BC; however, it did not begin in Britain until around 1900 BC.
The Copper Stone Age
The beginning of this time can go by the name of the Chalcolithic Age. It refers to when people first used pure copper. Copper was initially used for small objects, but they started using it to make precious objects.
The Fertile Crescent is an area where people lived in the past. It is also called “the cradle of civilization.” People there started to smelt copper 6,000 years ago.
Transition to Bronze Age
People made bronze in ancient Sumer. It is one of the first industrial processes. People mine and melt tin and then mix it with copper to make bronze.
Tin and copper are never together (except in Cornwell). They are mined in different places. So people had to trade. Tin that came from Cornwall was traded to Phoenicia, which is in the Mediterranean Sea.
Bronze was hard and more durable. Ancient Sumer used it for tools and weapons. Archaeologists found bronze, and they think it was a way of storing wealth and showing how important you are.
Bronze was originally used to make weapons. But then artisans discovered that it could be used for art. Both are important, with many ax blades being found in Europe.
Commercial networks began to develop across the world. This allowed for the technology’s diffusion throughout Ancient Egypt, Asia, and Europe.
We have found both iron and copper smelting in different parts of Africa as well. We don’t know how they came about.
Bronze made it possible to trade with other civilizations. People who had bronze were more powerful than people who didn’t have it.
Large groups had their bronzesmiths make their bronze tools. Other people needed to go to a traveling bronzesmith, who would take old bronze tools, food, and clothes in exchange for new ones.
People in the early Bronze Age still moved when they were hungry, following animals that could be hunted. Later on, people started to stay in one place and built permanent houses made of stone.
A fence was made for animal pens. They also grew crops there. Each year, they re-sowed some of the old crops on the land. With the field system, people were able to live in one place instead of having to travel to find food.
Bronze Age Civilizations
These Bronze Age civilizations in the Near East had many things in common, such as:
- intensive year-round agriculture
- social stratification
- burial of the dead
- writing systems
- potter’s wheel
- centralized governments
- astronomy and mathematics
The Bronze Age is the first period in which we can learn about what happened. Writing systems were invented at the beginning of this age, so it is possible to learn about what happened. People’s lives were different in different places during this time because they developed different ways of writing.
According to archaeological evidence, some cultures had writing systems. They are the Egyptians, the Near East people, and the people in Greece. Their systems are called hieroglyphic, cuneiform, and Linear B.
Engravings were made on rocks in the Bronze Age. They were used for different reasons, such as rituals and communication.
Most rock carvings were made in caves or canyons by people who hunted and gathered food. These people usually drew pictures of animals and humans as well as some stories.
Some people think that some petroglyphs are symbols for the sky or maps. Carvings in Sweden show land boundaries.
People have found symbols such as the cup-and-ring mark in different places across Europe. Some people think that this is a coincidence and others think that it’s because they came from the same place.
Some scholars think that the cup-and-ring marks were connected to water. They say that people would use the cups as basins for water. The cups look like the ripples made when raindrops hit the water.
Kingdoms in the Bronze Age
In the Bronze Age, people started to live in groups. Some groups were huge. These groups had a ruler, and they traded things with each other. They also fought and moved. Important places of the Bronze Age were Sumer and Babylonia in Mesopotamia and Ancient Greece, now called Athens.
The Sumerians were one of the first groups to use bronze. They also made canals for irrigation. The Sumerians invented cuneiform script, which is a form of writing. They built large stepped pyramid temples called ziggurats.
In ancient Mesopotamia, people established a lot of different cities. These cities were called Sumerian city-states. Some of the famous ones were Eridu and Uruk.
The Sumerians were fond of art and literature. The 3,000-line epic “Epic of Gilgamesh” chronicles the adventures of a Sumerian king as he fights a forest monster and searches for secrets of eternal life.
Babylonia was a powerful country in the Bronze Age in present-day Iraq. They had a capital, Babylon. The Amorites lived there, and the king, Hammurabi, created one of the world’s earliest legal codes. It made Babylon more powerful than Ur because it was a written down legal code.
In this city, there is a lot of clay and not many stones. People used mud brick instead of stone to build things. Babylonian temples were very big, and they used bricks to make them.
The walls were brightly colored. Sometimes they were made out of gold and zinc. But there wasn’t much stone, so every pebble was very valuable. This led to the perfection of gem-cutting skills in Babylonia.
Assyria is named after its original capital, which was the ancient city of Assur, and it was in modern-day Iraq. Assyria was a major political and military power. It had power over Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt. Assyria often battled the pharaohs in Egypt.
In Ancient Egypt, the Bronze Age began in the Protodynastic period. It was during that time that art, architecture, and religion were established.
During this time, the gods were organized, and their human figures became more accurate. Egyptian images and symbols were made. Symbols and hieroglyphics that we can read also came from Egypt. The Egyptians built the pyramids in the Old Kingdom.
During the Shang and Zhou Dynasties, Bronze Age civilizations grew up around the Yellow River in China. People used different methods to make bronze objects. They usually made a model of the object they wanted and then covered it in clay. After that, they took apart the clay mold into pieces and re-fired them to create one large mold.
Chinese bronze artifacts are usually either tools, like knives or forks, or very fancy versions of everyday items. Ritual bronzes are decorated with taotie motifs. They are highly styled animals or symbols.
Many large bronzes also have writing on them. The writing is called an inscription. It has helped people learn about China’s history.
Greece became an important center of cultural activity in the Bronze Age. The Cycladic civilization was an early Bronze Age culture that arose southeast of the Greek mainland on the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea.
A few hundred years after it was made, the Minoan civilization came to be on the island of Crete. The Minoans were an advanced civilization and traders.
They traded things like timber, olive oil, wine, and dye with nearby countries like Egypt and Syria. The people in these countries traded things like copper, tin, ivory, and precious stones for them in return.
Then the Mycenaean people started living in Greece. They lived during the late Bronze Age and had major cities like Mycenae, Sparta, and Athens.
Many Greek myths are tied to Mycenae. There is a story about Perseus, who killed Medusa, and Agamemnon, who invaded Troy. This is from the Iliad, which is a poem by Homer.
The Atlantic Bronze Age
The Atlantic Bronze Age was when different places in Portugal, parts of Spain, and the British Isles made metal. They used to exchange things with each other by boat.
This Bronze Age was a time when there were many exchanges of goods and cultures. People traded with Denmark and the Mediterranean.
People came to the island in Great Britain from the continent. The most bronze objects in England were found in East Cambridgeshire. It is also the most in Isleham, where more than 6,500 pieces were found. They mixed copper with zinc or tin to make brass or bronze.
The End of the Bronze Age
Around 1200 BC, the Bronze Age ended in the Middle East, North Africa, and Mediterranean Europe. Historians do not know for sure what caused it to end. They think that the transition was sudden and violent.
This period ended with people being able to smelt iron. Scholars think that natural disasters like droughts make people suffer. But other things like earthquakes, famines, and unrest could have also happened too.
P.S. If you enjoyed what you read and are a teacher or tutor needing resources for your students from kindergarten all the way up to high school senior (or even adults!), check out our partner sites KidsKonnect, SchoolHistory, and HelpTeaching for hundreds of facts, worksheets, activities, quizzes, courses, and more!